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Types of Different Academic Degree Levels Explained

A degree can definitely change your income level and help you excel at your current workplace. Depending on your academic background and field of interest, you can consider a degree or a certification program to pave your way forward. The duration required for the completion of a degree & its cost largely varies with the degree level, academic field of your interest, university ranking & financial aid options. Typically, in U.S. and rest of the world, degree levels after high school can be categorized in four main levels: associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree & a doctorate. Each university has its own prerequisites for the admission in its degree programs. However, in order to be enrolled in a post-graduate degree program, students are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some universities also require field work and employment experience for the eligibility to take a post-graduate degree program. On the other hand, enrollment in a certification course carries lesser requirement in regards to previous academic qualification. Below are brief introductory details on each major degree level:

Associate Degree:

An associate degree is an ideal way to gain access to entry-level jobs as the first stepping stone in a successful career. Compared to those only holding a high school diploma, employers actively seek out candidates with at least an associate’s degree to fill open positions. Normally an associate’s degree program takes 1-2 years of course work. The most sought after associate degree programs include nursing, sales, accounting and IT. Common associate degree examples are Associates of Sciences (A.S), Associates of Arts (A.A) and Associates of Applies Sciences (A.A.S.).

Bachelor’s Degree:

A bachelor’s degree enables individuals to qualify for lower and middle management jobs and equips students with a variety of theory, framework and studies related to their field of study. Each undergraduate student chooses a major and focuses on a specific field that closely aligns with their career aspirations. Completing an undergraduate degree can also enable a student to qualify for an admission to a graduate program in a top US university. A student can generally earn an undergraduate degree in 2-5 years, depending upon their previous studies and certifications. Almost every field of study is offered through an undergraduate program at a university or a college. Common examples of bachelor’s degrees are Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S. or B.Sc.), Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.FA).

Master’s Degree:

A master’s degree is an advanced degree that builds upon the knowledge the student has gained in his or her academic and professional career. Admission to a master’s program has strict requirements that are based on prior academic performance, career achievements, and placement tests. Completion of a master’s degree may take one to four years depending on the subject, coursework requirements, internships or work experience and any dissertations or thesis requirements. Completion of a master’s degree can open up several positions for the holder, including C-suite jobs. Common examples of graduate degrees are Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Masters of Arts (M.A.) and Masters of Science (M.Sc. or M.S.).

Doctorate Degree:

A doctorate is the highest level of educational achievement and the most prestigious of degrees. A Ph.D. program encourages the student to engage in innovation and advancements in their field. Admission to a doctoral program is generally restricted to holders of graduate degrees. A doctoral degree usually consists of 3-7 years of classes, fieldwork and research. Common examples of post graduate degrees are Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Juris Doctor (J.D.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.).

Certification and Trade Diploma:

A certification or diploma is shorter program that is usually oriented towards a certain trade or skill. These programs generally don’t count towards credit hours for advanced degrees, but an enrollment counselor can provide more information. Certificate courses are an ideal way to gain entry into your desired field or advance your career by acquiring a new skill. A certificate or diploma can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year to complete.